Divine Simplicity and Immutability of God
With readings from Stephen Charnock van Mastricht and Herman Bavinck
Simplicity is the perfection of God that excludes any physical or metaphysical composition in the being of God. God is not made up of more basic parts for this would mean that God’s existence is contingent or dependent on something more basic than him. There is nothing in God that is not God. God is maximal perfection and goodness. God has no potentiality so that he can become something more than he is. The simplicity of God entails his immutability. Therefore, God is identical with his existence and essence.
The Reformed theologian Stephen Charnock explains simplicity in terms of God’s supreme existence:
God is the most simple being; for that which is first in nature, having nothing beyond it, cannot by any means be thought to be compounded; for whatsoever is so, depends upon the parts whereof it is compounded, and so is not the first being: now God being infinitely simple, hath nothing in himself which is not himself, and therefore cannot will any change in himself, he being his own essence and existence. [Stephen Charnock, Discourse on the Existence and Attributes of God (Baker, 1996, reprint of Carter & Brother, 1953 edition), p. 333]
Continue reading “The Immutable God Who Cares. Part 3 – Divine Simplicity & Immutability of God”
actus purus: pure or perfect actualization or actuality; sometimes actus purissimus: most pure actuality; a term applied to God as the fully actualized being, the only being not in potency; God is, in other words, absolutely perfect and the eternally perfect fulfillment of himself. It is of the essence of God to be actus purus or purissimus insofar as God, self-existent being, is in actu (q.v.), in the state of actualization, and never in potentia (q.v.), in the state of potency or incomplete realization. This view of God as fully actualized being lies at the heart of the scholastic exposition of the doctrine of divine immutability (immutabilitas Dei, q.v.). Immutability does not indicate inactivity or unrelatedness, but the fulfillment of being. In addition, the full actualization of divine being relates strictly to the discussion of God’s being or essence ad intra and in no way argues against the exercise of divine potentia ad extra, potency or power toward externals. In other words, God in himself, considered essentially or personally, is not in potentia because the divine essence and persons are eternally perfect, and the inward life of the Godhead is eternally complete and fully realized. E.g., the generation of the Son does not imply the ontological movement of the Second Person of the Trinity from a state of incomplete realization to a state of perfect actualization. Nonetheless, the relationships of God to the created order, to the individual objects of the divine will ad extra, can be considered in potentia insofar as all such relations depend upon the free exercise of the divine will toward an order of contingent beings drawn toward perfection.
immutabilitas: immutability, changelessness; especially, the immutabilitas Dei, or immutability of God, according to which God is understood as free from all mutation of being, attributes, place, or will, and from all physical and ethical change; Continue reading “The Pure Actuality, Immutability and Simplicity of God – Latin Terms”
“For as the Father has life in himself.” (John 5:26)
Aseity and Immutability of God
In classical theism, God is the eternal absolute being who is independent of anything outside of himself. God is independent in his existence because he depends on nothing and no one for His existence. God is independent in his activity because all that is actual, apart from himself, exists by his will alone. He has all life, glory, and blessedness, in and of himself. He is self-sufficient. Creation does not add anything to God.
The Self-Existence (Aseity) of God
God is self-existent, that is, He has the ground of His existence in Himself. This idea is sometimes expressed by saying that He is causa sui (His own cause), but this expression is hardly accurate, since God is the uncaused, who exists by the necessity of His own Being, and therefore necessarily…The idea of God’s self-existence was generally expressed by the term aseitas, meaning self-originated… As the self-existent God, He is not only independent in Himself, but also causes everything to depend on Him. [Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Eerdmans, 1938), p. 58.]
Continue reading “The Immutable God who Cares. Part 2 – Aseity & Immutability of God”
James 1:17: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” [παρ’ ᾧ οὐκ ἔνι παραλλαγὴ ἢ τροπῆς ἀποσκίασμα, par hō ouk eni parallagē ē tropēs aposkiasma]
During my younger days, I used to dabble in linguistic philosophy (obviously in an amateurish way) and German historical criticism of the Bible. However, the forays into these avant garde trends left me with a sense of spiritual desiccation. It was in the midst of theological ennui that I stumbled on Abraham Heschel’s seminal work, The Prophets. I was swept by the spiritual and fervent vitality that flows through Heschel’s powerful and passionate prose.
However, Heschel’s exposition of the prophet’s teaching of the pathos of God both excited and troubled me. It is exhilarating to realize that God has a stake in the human situation. This is a stunning contrast to the god of the Greeks. For example, Aristotle taught that God is entirely self-centred. “It would be out of question for men to attempt personal intercourse with Him…those are wrong who think that there can be a friendship towards God. For (a) God could not return our love, and (b) we could not in any case be said to love God…He does not know this world and no Divine plan is fulfilled in this world. [Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy. Vol.1 pt.2 Greece and Rome (Double Day Image Book, 1962), pp. 59-61]
In contrast, the pathos of the God of the biblical prophet assures us that God intimately and passionately cares about human welfare. This assurance will certainly generate hope for believers who find themselves feeling hopeless as they are psychologically crushed in the midst of dire situations. Continue reading “The Immutable God Who Cares. Part 1”
Classical Evangelicalism has always affirmed that the power of the gospel lies in the proclamation that Christ died for the ungodly and made atonement for their sins. “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins…But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 9:22; 10:12-14) The truth that underlies this proclamation is encapsulated in the phrase, “the penal substitutionary death of Christ.”
However, this glorious truth has been challenged by some modern theologians who deny that Christ’s death is a penal substitutionary sacrifice for sin. Similarly, the teaching of Christ’s atonement becomes distorted when some Charismatics claim that partaking the Lord’s Supper brings physical healing because of the blood of Christ shed on the cross.
You are invited to read the careful reading of Isaiah 53 (the locus classical of the doctrine of penal substitutionary death of Christ in the Old Testament) written by Dr. Leong Tien Fock. It will help you gain a better understanding and a grateful appreciation of the glory of Christ’s atonement. Continue reading “The Atonement in Isaiah 53”